Street Fighter 6 hands-on impressions
Many Street Fighter games become famous, or infamous, for the core mechanics that each game has offered since the Street Fighter 2 series ran its course. Parries in Street Fighter 3, Focus Attacks and their resulting moves in SF4, and the V-System in SF5 have all come to heavily define the respective games they come from, and I think Street Fighter 6 will be a similar case with the Drive System .
Right now the Drive Impact (Focus Attack) maneuver in Street Fighter 6 feels like a dominating force, but speaking with PG|Punk and Justin Wong about the game at Evo 2022, it seemed like the Drive Rush mechanic was the favored way to spend that meter in their eyes.
Granted, it’s still very early and it’s possible a number of these attacks will be tweaked in the future — or currently have been already — as builds can change often behind the scenes for these games.
Drive Impact’s ability to stun the opponent when cornered and burned out, and absorb two attacks (or more), plus deal a considerable amount of damage all for one bar felt extremely powerful, and early on this was a very popular tactic that I saw used repeatedly. While you can be thrown out of this attack, and it can be avoided by jumping or being out of range, you really felt it if you blew through your Drive Gauge and the opponent closed ground on you in the corner.
Drive Rush felt particularly impactful when used in neutral, as you could whiff punish with a normal, and then cancel into Drive Rush and continue the combo for really solid damage, and likely some okizeme setups from there. This does come at a great cost however, at 3 bars, and could quickly lead into you burning out.
Unfortunately, without knowing the frame data and having a really good understanding of the moves, the Drive Parry system currently felt underwhelming, but it might be that this mechanic is locked behind a skill wall few people have hit, as hands-on time with Street Fighter 6 by most people in the community has been very limited.
Some of the players I spoke with about the game referred to it as Street Fighter 5.5 in terms of the gameplay. Definitely it’s own thing, but fairly familiar to the existing Street Fighter game now in a number of respects.
Ryu and Luke felt like their Street Fighter 5 counterparts, where you could pick up and do their combos, spacing and things of that nature without a big departure in execution or approach. Chun-Li and Jamie however definitely felt new and fresh.
One thing I strongly feel, those names you see atop the Capcom Pro Tour leaderboards, get used to seeing them more often, because people who are strong in SF5 will very likely carry over a good portion of their skills into Street Fighter 6.
Playing Street Fighter 6 exactly like you play SF5 will definitely land you in trouble though, as there’s going to be a new meta and new ways to play and enjoy this game.
I’d heard quite a bit about how strong fireballs were in this game compared to previous editions of Street Fighter, and they unfortunately didn’t feel THAT strong to me. Ryu’s fireball recovers quickly, and they do travel at a good speed, but they never felt like the game-changers they were in Street Fighter 2 or 4.
Perhaps I’m missing some of the core setups and things that are available, but as it is right now, fireballs felt slightly better than they are in Street Fighter 5, depending on the character you use.
Maybe it was the input delay or something else, like forgetting you can’t do EX moves in burnout, but the window to do invincible reversals seemed less friendly. The jury is still out on this one.
Also, nearly everyone I played said the game felt “heavy” and a bit sluggish, something like a NetherRealm Studios’ title. This once again could have been because of some input delay with the public build, which isn’t uncommon with pre-release versions of games. This stuff is often tweaked throughout development.
Jumps also feel a bit floaty right now, and that could be due to the above mentioned things, but this is another aspect of the game that’s often tweaked in development, and I have no worries that Capcom will get this dialed in to where it should be.
Fans of Street Fighter 5 are often used to throwing caution to wind and draining every resource they have in an effort to KO the opponent as quickly as possible. This leads to a snowball effect in the game, where a few wrong guesses can end up costing you everything, and things feeling very one-sided.
There’s a real and tangible problem with doing this in Street Fighter 6, and it’s the burnout state. There were numerous times I tried to just unleash everything I had, and then I’d end up in a really, really bad spot when it didn’t work out.
You need to hold onto your resources to not make yourself susceptible to a number of situations that will likely cost you the round, but it can be tempting to fire away since you start rounds with a full 6 blocks of Drive gauge.
Often times the ways you play at the start, middle and end of rounds should be adjusted based on the resources you have, both on offense and defense. For example, looking for whiff punishes into Drive Rush at the start of rounds is a really smart idea to build up a life lead, but trying to pull that off in the middle or end of a round, and failing, may leave you in burnout and cost you everything.
One of the dominant strategies from most early players on is going to be a considerable amount of Drive Impacts (Focus Attacks). This is actually a great way to get familiar with the new systems in the game and land some really powerful combos and setups.
This is a commitment-based option, you can’t dash out of it like you could the Focus Attack in Street Fighter 4. Also, it’s fairly easy to see this coming if you telegraph it, and for the opponent to trigger their own Drive Impact on reaction. In all cases I saw, the second person to do a Drive Impact in neutral is going to win out, so it’s not something you can spam away with and hope for good results.
Also, while you can absorb two hits (or more) with it, you’re MUCH more likely to die if your health is low from absorbing damage than what happened in Street Fighter 4.
Throwing the start up, or just avoiding the Drive Impact and whiff punishing all work, so there are plenty of counters, but learning the spacing and timing to this mechanic is going to be crucial for people starting out with the game, because you’re going to see it a lot.
Ryu felt closest to his Street Fighter 5 version, but with some SF4 thrown in as well. As previously mentioned, his fireball traps feel extremely good because the recovery on his Hadouken is quite speedy. His crouching medium kick also has a ton of range and seemed to combo well when canceled from into stuff like his fireball or Joudan Kick special, from all spots where the initial hit landed.
Luke also felt a lot like his SF5 counterpart, which means powerful and plenty of options. Capcom seems intent on making Luke good, probably because he’ll be the co-protagonist for the game, according to what we’re hearing. There was a moment where Luke did his fireball super on me which I blocked, but he recovered before I had time to do a jump-in punish.
Chun-Li feels like an almost brand new character. Her EX Spinning Bird Kick doesn’t work well as an invincible reversal at all and some of her normals have been heavily reworked. Crouching Medium Punch is now a standard poke instead of a slide attack, and her Up Kicks are performed by pressing Down, Down + Kick, ironically.
The developers said Chun-Li is a speedy and technical character, and you really feel it by playing her. Quick movements and a strong throw but difficult to string together attacks and such without knowing the routes and having the muscle memory. She has a number of moves that cancel into one another, and it was really hard to play her without having some time in training mode to practice her new moves and combos.
She’s such a departure from the last two versions we saw in SF4 and 5, I hope fans of the characters don’t mind. When I get the game I’ll probably main her however, because I often play Chun-Li if Rose isn’t available.
I got the least time with Jamie, and he was the least played character I saw during the weekend. He has some Rekka stuff like Fei-Long that’s interesting, and definitely feels like how you’d expect a drunken combatant to fight, but it was hard to get much going with him at this early stage. I wish I was able to explore him more, but that will definitely come with time.
The game looks better in person than it does on stream, but it didn’t seem to be running in a true 4K resolution just yet. It seemed more like 1080p upscaled to 4K. This was a bit disappointing to me, because I wanted to see the game running at a true 4K, which will likely require Capcom to run it on PC, as the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are often running a checkerboard 4K resolution in other games .
I asked the Capcom team what the game was running at, but no one seemed to know off hand. 1080p upscaled to 4K is how it looked at me.
Despite the game feeling a bit sluggish — which could just be simply because it’s no where close to the final build — it truly does feel like a Street Fighter entry. Nailing this overall look and feel is extremely important to fans of the franchise, as when you’re playing a numbered sequel, there’s a certain amount of expectations that come with that. Based on past history, I have no worry that the developers will nail this with time.
Gameplay wise, I believe that the base game is going to be really fun and enjoyable for fans of the Street Fighter franchise. However, if you’re seeking something brand new and innovative, it’s probably best to look at other fighting games on the market. This is far more of a callback to previous games in the series than a completely fresh and innovative take on the franchise, but again, that’s how a numbered sequel should be setup. Adding new things, but honoring the past games as well.
I really enjoyed my time with the game and I would have played it all day and night if I was able to do so. Most people at Evo appeared to feel the same, because the lines to play the game were really long, where it took about an hour or so to make your way through to get hands-on time.
Right now, Street Fighter 6 is shaping up to be a really big blast from the past, but with new trappings and mechanics to get fans excited as well. Things seem promising so far.